Select Committee on Education and Skills Minutes of Evidence

Further supplementary memorandum from OFSTED (OFS 21)

10 December 2001

Dear Headteacher,


  In September, I wrote to you with our proposals for changes to school inspection arrangements from 2003. Many of you, along with your governors and your staff, have taken the time during a very busy term to read our consultation paper and let us know your views. One main purpose of this letter is to thank you.

  We held 43 consultation seminars around the country, and a further 17 meetings with national organisations and interest groups. MORI has received some 8,500 written responses, and is compiling a report for us. The information that we have gathered is, and will be, very helpful to us in shaping the new arrangements for inspection. Equally important for me has been the positive and constructive tone of the responses.


  One clear message is that the feedback which inspectors offer to teachers is welcomed and valued. Teachers want to be clear about the strengths and areas for improvement which inspectors have observed during their lessons. As we develop new arrangements, we shall work closely with contractors to ensure that there is an important place for effective and constructive feedback, and for the professional dialogue which supports it.


  I shall announce decisions on all the consultation issues in the new year. There is, however, one on which we can act immediately. I am asking inspectors to stop providing profiles of teaching grades to individual teachers from the start of next term. This means that they will not be available to headteachers either. You will continue to receive oral feedback on teaching standards, and the grades will be summarised in the inspection report.

  Profiles of grades have been a cause of concern to many teachers. I judge that effective feedback is more likely in a climate where grades are not shared, and that seems to be the view emerging from consultation. We have never shared teaching grades following short inspections, as not all teachers are visited. Performance management and appraisal arrangements are now becoming embedded in all schools and we do not want to confuse the picture with grades produced for a different purpose.


  I am also able to let you know that we are already establishing four working groups, with membership drawn from outside OFSTED, to take forward the development of new arrangements in consultation with important stakeholders. One group will consider pupils' and parents' interests; one will look at the new arrangements as they affect special schools; one will focus on effective school management, including self-evaluation; and one will be an inspectors' group to draw on their views and practical experience.


  The consultation paper mentions our commitment to supporting effective school management, so that schools are well placed to contribute to the inspection process, and build on its outcomes. We have taken a number of steps this term. In November we held a very successful national seminar on school self-evaluation and school improvement, involving a group of 25 headteachers. As a result, an alternative version of the "Headteacher's Statement" (Form S4) will be piloted in inspections from January. We are also working jointly with the National College for School Leadership to train headteachers in school improvement and self-evaluation, helping them to develop inspection skills as a basis for work within their own school. This training has started as a pilot, involving 90 headteachers in the first instance.

NEXT STEPSI will write to you again in the new year when I announce plans to take forward the work on new inspection arrangements. I want to maintain and build on the spirit of professional debate which characterised the consultation process. Please accept my best wishes for a peaceful and happy Christmas, and pass on my greetings to your staff, governors and pupils.

Mike Tomlinson, HMCI

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